Tag Archives: Microsoft

It’s Official, Mark Penn Is Microsoft New Chief Strategy Officer

Previous Hillary Clinton hand (and Microsoft marketeer) Mark Penn is currently chief strategy officer.

It likely didn’t happen as furtively as Microsoft might have enjoyed, however the official changes that spilled out through the weekend are currently official, for every CEO Satya Nadella.

Tony Bates, the previous head of Skype who contended with Nadella for the Microsoft CEO opening, is leaving the organization and will be swapped by long-lasting insider Eric Rudder. Tami Reller will hand the promoting reins over to Chris Capossella and will be taking some time off.

What’s more Mark Penn, who had imparted advertising to Reller, will be EVP and boss method officer or, as Re/code put it, “strategery officer.”

In the release Nadella wrote:

This change in marketing structure provides an opportunity for Mark Penn to play a new leadership role at the company as EVP, Chief Strategy Officer. Mark brings a blend of data analysis and creativity that has led to new ways of working and strong market outcomes such as the “Honestly” campaign and the Super Bowl ad, both of which were widely cited as examples of high impact advertising across the industry.

Photo Gigaom

Microsoft’s Aggressive Platform Push

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Microsoft recently announced a number of changes to its Windows 8.x and Windows Phone platforms that underscore it is doubling down on Windows.

Breaking Friday was the news that Microsoft will lower the per-device cost to OEMs to ship Windows 8.x on less expensive devices. Bloomberg’s Dina Bass wrote that for devices that sell to consumers for $250 or less, Microsoft will charge $15 for use of Windows 8.1, a 70 percent decline on previous rates.

This allows OEMs to enjoy far stronger margins on low-cost Windows devices, making the Windows world more attractive to the ever margin-strapped device manufacturer world. Also, this brings the cost of Windows on cheap tablets more in line with the cost of Windows Phone on smartphones, an important change given the coming unification between the two core Windows platforms. Microsoft is still coy on the matter, but its executives have essentially laid the plan bare publicly.

This morning at Mobile World Congress Microsoft announced a sheaf of new product changes to both Windows 8.x and Windows Phone, including improvements to the core desktop experience of Windows proper, and aggressive moves to extend the capability of OEMs to build Windows Phone handsets.

In addition to a ready-to-go template, and work to allow Android handsets to run Windows Phone more simply, Microsoft listed off a grip of new OEMs that are on board to work on Windows Phone itself; if the platform is to live and die by partners, as it has thus far (both flavors of Windows), making the lives of those partners easier is simple calculus.

The announced Windows 8.x changes — detail remains light, expect more at Build in a few months — and the Windows Phone platform improvements continue the company’s bet on both Windows, and its ability to grow a platform of its own. This means Microsoft is wagering that it doesn’t need to retrench to lean on Android, for example, an idea that some externally have floated.

What you need to keep in mind is that work Microsoft does now to improve Windows Phone is work proper to its strategy to unify that platform, and experience with Windows RT. So, the work that the company is doing to better support keyboard and mouse users is almost separate; that work is in a different use-case silo.

Lowering the cost for Windows on low-cost devices could help the company foster a new cadre of devices that will eventually run whatever the Second Windows is; so the new OEM group supporting Windows Phone implies future hardware support for what comes next. That’s important.

All the above — and I’ll have more for you in the coming days — indicates so far as your humble servant can divine from lumpy tea sediment that Microsoft hasn’t changed its course in betting that a unified Windows experience across device classes with a firm shared application development environment is a strategy worth following.

Can Windows Phone take on Android or iOS in the short-term? No, at least not in terms of developer buy-in. But a unified Windows ecosystem that helps developers build once and deploy diversely to a growing set of devices could be something different altogether, in the medium and long-term.

Microsoft is not out of the arboreal subset, but it is wagering on building something big of its own, instead of depending on others. In the platforms wars, there likely isn’t another option. It remains a question of execution.



Satya Nadella’s Social Megaphone

When Microsoft announced it had chosen a new CEO, the Internet exploded with interest in Satya Nadella. From a quick glance at the headlines, the move was positively received. Nadella won praise as a thoughtful leader with a strong grasp of technology and innovation. Within hours, he had received the ultimate sign of arrival: an imposter began tweeting in his name. Twitter quickly suspended the account.

What happened to his real Twitter account was more interesting. We analyzed his traffic before and after the announcement. As you’d expect, his followers jumped immediately after the announcement—from almost none to more than 60,000 in a day.

The followers of those accounts also engaged 1.3 times on average, lifting the total impressions to potentially around 83,000,000.

We noticed something else. Nadella didn’t just add followers. He added ones who had a lot of followers in their own right. Microsoft, for example, clocks in at cool 4,100,000 in total. The Wall Street Journal also jumped on board with its 4,000,000-strong contingent. Mashable added 3,800,000 as well. And so on.

Prior to that, Nadella had had a very small Twitter presence, probably because he had not engaged on the platform for some time. But when he did, he released a pitch-perfect tweet that showed a good grasp of the medium: “first commitment as CEO…I won’t wait 4 years between tweets!”

That tweet generated around 21,000 retweets, replies, and other engagement in its first two days. This number may not seem impressive, but the average follower base of those engaging with the tweet was 3,852. As a result, that single communication reached a potential audience of more than 64,000,000. The followers of those accounts also engaged 1.3 times on average, lifting the total impressions to potentially around 83,000,000.

For the sake of argument, let’s compare that to more popular Twitter users like Justin Bieber. Now Justin may have 50,000,000 Beliebers, but they are on average much less influential. Many are bots or have zero followers. We didn’t run a full analysis on his numbers, but for the purpose of argument, let’s say his followers’ average reach is 100 (this is probably a bit low, but it makes for easy math). So if he gets 1,000,000 retweets, that gives him an amplified audience of 100,000,000. Nadella gets roughly the same audience with only 26,000 retweets.

You can also look at Nadella’s social impact in dollar terms. According to Adweek, Twitter ads on average cost about $3.50 per thousand impressions. On that basis 83,000,000 impressions delivers a value of about $290,500. And you could argue that organic mentions are worth a bit more.

Justin Bieber’s Twitter army certainly has nothing to fear (except perhaps another meltdown from their favorite star), but quality clearly matters on the platform. Nadella may have a relatively small follower base, but he already has 290,500 good reasons to tweet some more. We wish him luck.


You can follow me on Twitter here.


Photo: Getty Images

Posted by:Shane Atchison

New Bing Apps For Windows Phone Point To Increasing Platform Unity From Microsoft

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This morning Microsoft announced updates to Bing apps for Windows Phone (News, Finance, Weather, Sports), and new Bing-based apps for the smartphone platform: Food and Drink, Health and Fitness, and Travel. Comparable apps were already available on Windows 8.1.

It’s a sensible move given that users of Windows 8.x likely expect their Windows experience to travel to their phone as well, given the platform’s advertised similarity to their normal computing environment.

Microsoft, however, has added a new wrinkle that should raise your eyebrow:

Along with fresh features, your personalized content from all 7 of the Bing apps will now roam across all your Windows devices. For example: any places you’ve added in the Bing Weather app will now roam and sync between your Windows PC or Tablet and your Windows Phone! Just set up once with your Microsoft Account, and you’re all set.

To use the common vernacular, ermergerd, such platform unity.

Microsoft has hinted that it intends to merge the Windows RT and Windows Phone platforms into something — I don’t really know what that product would look like. What matters in the above is that Microsoft is better at tying together its not-very-discrete operating systems.

Unlike with Windows 8.x, the above app set is opt-in on Windows Phone. You can Bing on your phone if you want, but if not no worries. For now, at least.

The new apps look like fine mobile counterparts to their tablet/desktop cousins. This is not the last time that we will see Microsoft work to harmonize the Windows 8.x-Windows Phone user experience.



How Google Beat Microsoft at their own game.

Follow me on Twitter — @hoomanradfar

The year was 1980. Apple, led by Steve Jobs, introduced the world to the miracle of personal computing. The PC revolution had started. IBM wanted in, but lacked lacked the essential software necessary to deliver a complete consumer product. Enter Microsoft. A young Bill Gates and Paul Allen promised the technology giant that their small start-up had the operating system necessary to power their go-to-market strategy. Minor problem — they didn’t have it.

With a pirate-like flair, the two managed to purchase DOS (disk operating system) from Tim Patterson for the bargain basement price of $50K. The software was quickly repackaged and delivered to IBM as MS-DOS. IBM went on to use the operating system to power their PC line. And the rest, they say, is history. That watershed event set Microsoft up as the de-facto operating system in the nascent PC market. Microsoft went public six years later and is now worth over $300B — $100B+ more than IBM.

Microsoft’s success was, in large part, a result of their relentless focus upon owning the essential platforms upon which software applications were developed and delivered. Using their leverage as a distribution channel for software, the company gained dominance in both the consumer and business application markets. During the dot-com explosion, Microsoft missed a number of plays. Much like today, they had their critics. But at the height of the boom, they leveraged their OS heft to move into the web in a big way. They bundled their newly minted Internet Explorer web browser with Windows — for free. This move crushed the incumbent Netscape and solidified Microsoft’s leadership position as the largest developer platform.

In recent years, it’s clear that Microsoft has missed a great number of opportunities. Just as they did during the PC era, Microsoft has their critics. Unlike the PC era, however, the firm has not managed to successfully leverage their platform and resources to secure leadership positions in many key consumer web services such as search, e-commerce, etc. This may be in large part attributed to the massive regulatory hurdles they’ve faced. That said, Microsoft has managed to maintain their position as the ultimate distribution platform for software, the operating system. Until now.

The year was 2007. Apple, led by Steve Jobs, introduced the world to the miracle of mobile computing. The revolution had started. Hardware manufacturers wanted in, but lacked lacked the essential software necessary to deliver a complete consumer product. Sound familiar? Here’s where the story takes a left turn. Enter Google. Taking a play from the Microsoft playbook, Google pushed the Android operating system as a free and open open source solution for hardware manufacturers to go-to-market faster against Apple. With the introduction of tablets and a similar ecosystem dynamic to mobile phones, Google is now on the verge of winning the coveted position that Microsoft has held for the last 30 years — control of the modern computing platform. And here’s the kicker. Just like Microsoft before them, Google didn’t build their way to this envious position. They bought it. For how much you ask? $40M.

Had Microsoft become the mobile operating system, they could have potentially recovered from their lack of innovation in the consumer market in recent years. With that distribution channel in place, they would have had the largest reaching mobile app store, the default killer mobile applications like search, could have solidified Internet Explorer in the browser spot and more. Microsoft has since attempted to scramble to win (read: buy) a share of the operating system market. While I hesitate to call the game, it seems that the proverbial horse has left the barn.

Google is now the apex predator of the digital world. Much like the once unstoppable Microsoft, Google is using their platform dominance and vast resources to colonize the consumer and enterprise application stack. And it’s working. From advertising to robots, Google is seeking to power all things digital. But, if history has taught us one thing, it’s that no empire is safe. From Rome to Microsoft, everyone gets sacked.

Will Google be regulated like Microsoft? Will that provide the opening necessary for one of the newly minted platform giants like Facebook, Twitter, or Dropbox to take the crown? Will Microsoft, led by new chief Satya Nadella, pull a hail mary? Or is there another giant brewing in the primordial start-up stew?

Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain, this case will be a classic for MBA students filed under ‘don’t forget your core competency.’

Follow me on Twitter — @hoomanradfar

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Microsoft signs Android patent deal with Voxx Electronics

Summary: Microsoft has added Voxx Electronics to its list of Android patent licensees.

Microsoft may be considering ways to entice Android developers and handset makers to join the Windows world, but that isn’t stopping the Redmond company from continuing to exact patent licensing fees from those using Android.


On February 13, Microsoft signed its latest patent licensing agreement with Voxx Electronics Corp., formerly known as Audiovox Electronics Corp. The agreement covers Voxx devices running the Android OS,”including rear-seat entertainment devices, tablets and other consumer devices.”

The terms of the deal are confidential, however Microsoft will receive royalties from Voxx under the agreement, according to the press release about the deal.

Microsoft has signed a number of similar patent-licensing deals with companies using Android and Chrome OS, under which those companies agree to pay Microsoft undisclosed fees to cover unspecified patented Microsoft technologies that are part of these Google operating systems.

Microsoft previously signed patent licenses with Samsung, LG, HTC, Acer, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and more.

For Microsoft, patent licensing is believed to be one of the company’s billion-dollar businesses in its own right.

Topics: Patents, Android, Google, Legal, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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Why I, Conan O’Brien, Turned Down The Microsoft CEO Job

LinkedIn Influencer Conan O’Brien here, and I’d like to belatedly congratulate Satya Nadella, the veteran executive who will be replacing Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft.

You’ll do a great job, Satya. It is my informed opinion that you were the right second choice. The right first choice, of course, being the current host of CONAN on TBS.

Sure, the Microsoft board never technically asked me to be their CEO. I did, however, get a tweet from Bill Gates once. So, you do the math. That is why I was proactive, as business visionaries often are, and sent a very nice “thanks, but no thanks” note with an Edible Arrangement to their Redmond, Washington campus.

The complete lack of any response to my flat-out rejection of their non-offer spoke volumes. One day, I’m sure they’ll get over it.

It would have been easy to run a scrappy start-up like Microsoft. As easy as booting up Windows ‘98 on my Compaq Presario and winning a game of Minesweeper.

Turning Microsoft back into an industry titan like Wang or Commodore would have required a simple three point action-plan: 1. Zune 2. More Zune 3. Even More Zune.

But wait, there’s more.

I would have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a marketing campaign to get everyone in America to “Bing their symptoms” after that weekend trip to Juarez.

The Surface tablet would have come with new peripheral device I called “Tiny Windshield Wipers.”

Every single version of the Windows operating system would have been voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Excel 2014 would have built-in Instagram filters.

These are just some of the brilliant ideas that I wrote down in my personal journal titled “Poetry.”

Life is too short to ponder “what ifs.” What if I had decided to breed emus? What if I had joined Cirque du Soleill? What if I was self-aware?

We will never know the answers to these questions. But I can answer the one question that is currently melting your brain.

The reason I turned down the CEO job was simple – I knew, in my heart of hearts, that Microsoft would never, ever, let me rename the entire company CONAN. And at the end of the day, I just want to work for a company that’s in the business of me, me, me.